Ford has been developing lots of different materials from renewable sources including the soyfoam that they introduced in the Mustang seats for 2008. Now Ford's Japanese affiliate Mazda has kicked off a new research program with hometown school Hiroshima University to develop a new type of plastic. Current plastics are largely made from petroleum-derived materials meaning that they too contribute to our fossil fuel dependency. Mazda's research is focused on creating a new bioplastic made from cellulosic biomass. Like cellulosic ethanol, the new bioplastic won't be made from food products.

Polypropelene is commonly used in automotive applications. Mazda will be working on developing processes to produce cellulosic ethanol and then transforming that into ethylene and propylene. The difficulty will making the processes both cost effective and environmentally friendly. The goal is to have the new processes ready to produce bioplastics by 2013.

[Source: Mazda]

Mazda Commences Development of Non-Food-Based Bioplastic

- The 'Mazda Bioplastic Project' is an industry-academia-government collaboration aiming to use the new bioplastic in vehicles by 2013 -

HIROSHIMA, Japan-Mazda Motor Corporation today signed a collaborative research agreement with Hiroshima University to launch the "Mazda Bioplastic Project." The project aim is to develop a bioplastic from non-food-based cellulosic biomass and have it ready for use in vehicles by 2013.

The bioplastic being developed will not consume food resources because it will be made from cellulosic biomass produced from inedible vegetation such as plant waste and wood shavings. Furthermore, because cellulosic biomass is plant-derived and therefore carbon neutral*, the bioplastic will reduce reliance on limited fossil fuel resources and alleviate carbon dioxide emissions.

The project will focus on designing a production process for an extremely versatile polypropylene, appropriate for extensive use in vehicles, by first converting cellulosic biomass to ethanol, and then investigating various mixtures of ethylene and propylene. The polypropylene must have sufficient heat resistance, strength and durability to be used in vehicle bumpers and instrument panels. The project will also seek to optimize the manufacturing process for the bioplastic so that it is eco-friendly and cost-effective.

Seita Kanai, Mazda's director and senior executive officer in charge of R&D, said, "Development of a non-food-based bioplastic made from sustainable plant resources has great potential in the fight against global warming, and can help allay global food supply concerns. Mazda is pleased to join forces with our regional partners as we work toward systematically combining various biomass technologies. Through this cooperation, we intend to strengthen Hiroshima's position as a center for biomass research, and develop technology that can be used throughout the world."

Mazda's previous research on biomass technology resulted in the world's first high heat-resistant, high-strength bioplastic and the world's first 100 percent plant-derived fabric for use in car seats. These two biomaterials are used in the interior of the Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid. Powered by Mazda's hydrogen rotary engine mated to a hybrid system, the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid is scheduled to start commercial leasing in Japan in fiscal year 2008.

Mazda began joint activities with the research department at Hiroshima University's Graduate School of Engineering in 2005. This partnership's comprehensive agreement on joint automotive technology research includes biomass technology. Going forward, Mazda plans to expand the collaborative research on biomass technologies and strengthen its relationship with Hiroshima University for multidisciplinary joint research. Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) will also participate in the bioplastic project as part of its ongoing agreement to collaborate on biomass research with Hiroshima University.

In March 2007, Mazda announced its long-term vision for technology development, "Sustainable Zoom-Zoom." This vision sets out Mazda's commitment to advance safety and environmental technologies, which include biomass-related research, with the aim of realizing a sustainable society.

* Carbon neutral
Carbon neutral describes a process that has a negligible impact on total atmospheric CO2 levels. For example, carbon neutrality means that any CO2 released when a plant decomposes or is burnt is offset by an equal amount of CO2 absorbed by the plant through photosynthesis when it is growing.

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